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Yorkshire Blue

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I hear Agnew reckons there will be a fair bit in it for Harmison or Anderson, based on the nets. Having been out to the middle this lunchtime I'm not so sure. Whilst the square is nice and green and the nets had a green tinge, the pitch they are going to use doesn't. I haven't been able to do the key in the pitch test on the actual square (I got as far as the square before being told to bugger off) but I did get to check the outfield which was very, very dry. The groundsman had only a light roller out (no engine driven one here, it was being pulled by two women!)

It doesn't look to me like a pitch with extravagant pace or carry, but it does look like a pitch that will detoriate and offer the spinners more and more assistance as the game progresses. No surprises there then. I'd have thought it was a bat first pitch, but then I thought the same on my last England tour, when Nasser won the toss and put the Aussies in on a belter at Brisbane.

The good news for England though, is the weather. Up in the hills of Kandy it is a lot, lot, lot less opressive than down on the coast at Columbo or Galle. The England seamers will be able to bowl longer spells, and may even be helped by the strong breeze that was blowing today. For that reason, I reckon Kandy offers England's best chance of success.

I took a few photos of the ground, which is quite picturesque with its hillside setting, but not enough for me to bother downloading them yet. The ground was a hive of activity, with seating and roofing being erected and advertising hoardings placed and painted onto the bowlers' run-ups. Hopefully it'll be all ready for me tomorrow. I've got my tickets for the first three days - only 10,000 capacity and sales are going well despite the Sri Lankan cricket board raising their prices. Still when the entire series should cost less than a single day in England - I'm still aiming to spend less on my entire trip than I would spend on tickets alone if I went to every day of test cricket in an English summer.

COME ON ENGLAND!
 

Museshrimper

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I'll be getting up at 4.50 in the morning to tune in. Will you be making yourself clearly visible YB? Southend shirt or anything like that?

Really looking forward to seeing England in tests again. I do enjoy these winter tours, getting up early to watch them.
 

Museshrimper

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42-4 after 75 minutes play. Hoggard's doing brilliantly, removing 3 so far. Sangakkara looks in great form though.

Great start after losing the toss.
 

Uncle Leo

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Well chuffed with my decision to get up at six this morning. Saw three wickets within ten minutes of being awake :)

A relief that the 6th wicket partnership has finally been broken.
 

sufcintheprem

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Stumps on 49/1. Seen the highlights and some of Hoggard's bowling was just unplayable. Great position from day one and thoroughly impressive. Still, plenty of Murali to come so it's far from over. They're not too shabby with the bat either.
 

Yorkshire Blue

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What a day.

Got there at about 8:45am through a combination of being up at 7, staying only 10 minutes away and there being not a lot else to do at that time other than reserve a spot and watch the toss. Nobody was quite sure what time play was due to start (I was under the impression it was 9:30 and accounts varied from 9am to 10:30am), but when I arrived there were already queues forming.

The gates were still shut, but they soon opened them and I was able to wander round to my stand and pick my spot virtually behind the bowlers' arm at the non-pavillion end. I tied up my Southend flag and sat back and waited for some action. As I chatted to the fans around me the player emerged - in their training gear and began warming up. At this stage there was still no clues as to who would be getting the nod. When they split into close catchers and out-fielders Anderson was practising at third slip and Bopara 4th slip which made me wonder, but for the time being the scoreboard had only 10 England players listed - including both Bopara and Shah!

Eventually Jayawardene and Vaughan emerged in their whites and blazer along with the umpires for the toss. Watching from the stands we had no idea of what was going on, and it was only once we saw the camera man move in to speak to the Sri Lanka captain - and Vaughan ruefully stroll away - that we knew that Sri Lanka had won the toss and would inevitably bat. Soon the tannoy announced the teams and we knew that Harmy, who had been bowling testing deliveries to imaginery right and left handers during the warm up, hadn't been selected and instead Anderson retained his place, and that Bopara was to make his debut, not Shah, in place of Strauss. My early predictions were 350-3. The pitch looked a belter, there was barely a cloud in the sky and all Sri Lanka had to do was see off the new ball and then fill their boots.

Sidebottom surprisingly opened up. The start was ominious. Not quite as ominious as bowling the first ball to second slip but Vandort knocked the first ball away for a single and then Jayasuriya creamed one through the covers. The third ball he tried a criminal swing and missed. He hit another 4 next over and despite Hoggy inducing an inside edge that only just flew over the out-reached hand of Alistair Cook at forward short leg it looked like it was going to be a long day.

But then Jayasuriya played one loose shot too many and hit one in the air through the covers where KP took a very good catch and the Barmy Army were celebrating. Vandort was scratching around looking a little unconvincing - much like he did in 2006 at Edgbaston when I saw him somehow creep to a ton. However he chipped a ball up to Vaughan and Sri Lanka were 29-2. That bought together Sangakkara and Mahela Jawayardene, Sri Lanka's best two batsman by a distance. I sat back and expected to watch these two bat for the rest of the day.

By drinks, Sangakkara was looking good. Hoggard - bowling with the wind - was bowling nicely, but Sidebottom after Jayasuriya's rash shot was not so threatening. First ball after drinks Hoggy bowled a peach that the Lankan skipper was only good enough to get an edge on as it left him and suddenly England were looking in a very good position indeed. With the tail now exposed, Hoggy continued to bowl brilliantly, inducing edges from Chamara Silva and then Muburak with one which held its line. At 42-5 we were pinching ourselves and I was rather less concerned about not having purchased a ticket for the 4th and 5th days yet.

As it transpired, most of the rest of the day was spent watching Sangakkara and Jayawardene bat, but it was Jayawardene the keeper, who, one or two injudicious attempted cut shots apart, was looking fairly impressive. The class act was undoubtably Sangakkara, who looked as if playing Anderson, the quickest of the English seamers,was more a test of his patience in waiting for the ball to arrive, so much time did he have to spare. Anderson though was the one bowler to trouble Sangakkara, when he tempted a drive that was edged through a acant 3rd slip

Bopara was given an eventful over before lunch for his first bowl in test cricket in which he went for some runs, but drew a couple of edges, one bouncing short of slip, one inside edge which raced to the boundary.

After lunch it was a case of letting Panesar bowl into the stiff breeze and try to rotate the seamers at the other end. Sri Lanka managed to make it through to the drinks break without too many alarms, but much to Monty's delight Jayawardene hit one to Cook at bat-pad which looked to be more off the middle than bat-pad which Cook managed to cling onto. It was then a case of trying to winkle the tail out. Monty bowled the stubborn Vaas off an inside edge and then had Fernando (chant of the day, and think Abba: "you're not going to bowl today, you bag of $hite, Fernando") smartly snapped by the skipper fielding in close before Sangakkara, trying to hit out, was superbly snaffled by Collingwood at deep backward point. When Murali tried to take on Ravi's arm for a second there was only going to be one winner and Murali was run out without need for the 3rd umpire.

188(?) all out represented an excellent day's work for England but there was still work to be done. England's tardy over-rate (they won't be seeing much of their match fees this series) meant there was still a lot of cricket to be packed in, despite the shadows lengthening.

Vaughan and Cook (England's first left-right hand partnership since Vaughan took over the captaincy?) didn't last long. Vaas' first two balls to Cook were well wide of off stump and played out into the covers, but his third ball was a lot straighter (and possibly missing leg?) and Cook was out for a duck. Suddenly there were a few doubts about how under par Sri Lanka's score really was, particularly once Murali came on to bowl a testing couple of overs, but a sratchy Vaughan and an impressive Bell, (one back-foot drive was just class) looking as authoritative as he has done in test cricket, saw England through to the close just 140 odd runs behind.

Sangakkara and Jayawardene showed that batting can be easy on this pitch, but tomorrow England need to see off the new ball. Its then a case of can they cope with Murali?
 

MrB

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Cheers for the report, sounds good out there.
 

A Century United

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What a day.

Got there at about 8:45am through a combination of being up at 7, staying only 10 minutes away and there being not a lot else to do at that time.......

Sangakkara and Jayawardene showed that batting can be easy on this pitch, but tomorrow England need to see off the new ball. Its then a case of can they cope with Murali?

Very good report, thanks for that. Will you be getting any diving in?
 

Uncle Leo

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but his third ball was a lot straighter (and possibly missing leg?) and Cook was out for a duck.

Good report YB, was keeping an eye out for you as I settled down to watch an hour or so before heading off to work!

Cook was pretty plum as it turns out, an easy enough decision for the umpire.

Looks cracking out there, hope you (and England) enjoy the rest of the series as you did today.
 

Museshrimper

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Rain stopped play on 186-6. Really disappointing that we're unlikely to get a big lead. Prior again proving he's a fine batsman by chipping one staight to mid-wicket on 0.
 

Yorkshire Blue

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The first hour today was very good from an England perspective. Bell played his best England innings to date, showing a new found authoritativeness and was comfortably outscoring vaughan in playing some classy strokes. Vaughan was largely untroubled and England were set for a big lead.

There were a lot more locals in today, looking for Murali to break the pill-popping, bookies' cash grabbing Aussie text pest's record of most test wickets. The normally excellent Aleem Dar was also looking to help him as much as he could and gave Vaughan out for a "bat-pad" catch/lbw appeal. I wasn't convinced there was any edge in it, but it was given as a catch and Vaughan, who will lose a large percentage of his match fee through England's lethargic run-rate, probably forfeited the rest of it by standing his ground in disbelief. Mind you Vaughan looked pretty plumb on the replays yesterday evening when Malinga had a very good shout turned down.

KP came in and started sensibly, but with lunch approaching it started to drizzle. Bell started getting anxious, and looked as if he wanted his hundred before lunch and before they had to go off for rain. He rashly drove Murali to short mid-wicket where someone held on to a fine catch, probably better than KP's sharp effort yesterday.

KP started to find his touch and was in the 30s when Aleem Dar struck again, giving him lbw to a ball which looked pretty plumb from the stands, but the replays showed KP had taken a massive stride down the wicket. The locals were now getting pretty excited as Murali closed in on the landmark. Out came Ravi Bopara on debut, he looked nerveless and confidently played Murali, using the depth of his crease and looking assured as he started to catch up with Collingwood. Collingwood survived a big appeal by the excitable Sri Lankans before
Bopara was given not out for a blatant bump-ball which Aleem Dar inexplicably referred to the 3rd umpire, but the delay seemed to unsettle the normally collected Bopara and next ball he leg-glanced Murali off the face of the bat to the keeper for Murali to equal the record.

That brought out Matt Prior, whose last test innings was a pair. Prior had kept impeccably in the first innings but his confidence had taken a knock in the summer and what he wanted was surely a nice easy leg stump half volley to get back into the feel of test cricket. Unfortunately, he clipped Fernando straight to square leg, the shot of a man low on confidence and form. The Chris Read fan club no doubt rejoiced.

Sideshow Bob came in and England tail looked exposed, two runs behind and a lead by now wasn't guaranteed. The rain then intervened, with the help of some Collingwood time wasting, and England were left to rue a wasted position. Murali aside the pitch is generally playing well, although one or two deliveries started to keep low. I certainly wouldn't want to chase more than about 80 in the 4th innings up against Murali.

As the rain came down the Barmy Army started to entertain themselves, creating a beer-snake from the floor all the way up to the roof of the stand, and then teaching the local kids the Matthew Hoggard song.

My song of the day was however the Murali song (replacing the "throw, throw, throw the ball, gently down the seam/ Murali, Murali, Murali chucks it like a dream), to the tune of Ding Dong Merrily on High

Ding dong Murali is high
His eyes they are a bulging
Ding dong Murali is high
He takes more speed than wickets
 

Yorkshire Blue

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Good report YB, was keeping an eye out for you as I settled down to watch an hour or so before heading off to work!

Cook was pretty plum as it turns out, an easy enough decision for the umpire.

Looks cracking out there, hope you (and England) enjoy the rest of the series as you did today.

Someone said today that he got an inside edge on it? Could be why I thought it might have been missing leg.

I certainly thought they had a better shout against Vaughan.
 

Yorkshire Blue

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Rain stopped play on 186-6. Really disappointing that we're unlikely to get a big lead. Prior again proving he's a fine batsman by chipping one staight to mid-wicket on 0.

Prior is a fine batsman, its just he's got no confidence or form at the moment.
 

Yorkshire Blue

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Very good report, thanks for that. Will you be getting any diving in?

Dived a couple of wrecks off Hikkaduwa, the Earl of Shaftsbury and the Conch. Fairly decent dives, although the viz was average at best. I may try and get a couple more dives in between the 2nd and 3rd tests.
 

A Century United

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Dived a couple of wrecks off Hikkaduwa, the Earl of Shaftsbury and the Conch. Fairly decent dives, although the viz was average at best. I may try and get a couple more dives in between the 2nd and 3rd tests.


As the wind howls dismally and the rain spatters against the windows, I am thinking that, just possibly, you have had the right idea in heading for Sri Lanka....

:(
 

Yorkshire Blue

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With the weather having cleared, all eyes were on Murali as he sought to break the record for most test wickets. With only Sideshow Bob accompanying Colly, we all expected the record to fall early but despite Collingwood being happy to give the strike to Sidebottom, England ticked along nicely. Sidebottom in particular played some nice shots that put into perspective the top and middle orders' failures.

The first hour was England's with those two racking up a 50 partnership and forcing Sri Lanka to take the new ball - and give Murali some overs off. Unfortunately Malinga was bowling impressively, with good pace and hostility and he got Sidebottom to edge low to the keeper. Hoggy came in and again looked comfortable, playing one booming drive in particular, that was probably shot of the day. Murali however returned and prompted the fireworks and his team-mates mobbing him as Collingwood went back and was bowled to another beauty.

Anderson then came in and again looked fairly comfortable, probably playing Murali as well as any of the England players. His batting looked a revelation from the complete bunny that I remember, although after Hoggy had been stumped, Jimmy stepped across his stumps and was caught lbw.

A lead of just under 100 was probably as good as we'd have hoped for at the start of the day, but the pitch looked to be playing very well, despite the turn on offer to Murali. That left me fearful of chasing too many runs. Any more than about 80 and England would struggle, any more than about 200 and the game was as good as Sri Lanka's.

Early wickets were therefore imperative. England had two overs before lunch, but Sri Lanka survived them intact. After lunch vandort played and missed frequently at the swinging ball, whilst Jayasuriya looked happy just knocking the ball straight to Monty and running the single. The partnership began to look ominous, particularly when Jayasuriya was dropped high at slip by Bell from a rank Anderson delivery. Having already hit Anderson over mid-off for 4 first ball of the over, Bell's drop went for 4 and Jayasuriya continued to attack in one-day mode, hitting the remaining 4 balls of the over also for 4. Vaughan cleverly kept Anderson on as if to challenge Jayasuriya to do that again and Jayasuriya swung violently and missed and Anderson bowled out a maiden.

The Barmy Army were by now in full voice, sensing that the England team needed a lift. One rendition of "Barmy Army" was sung for over an hour but still no break through.

Eventually after tea Hoggy struck with an lbw decision that might have been turned down, but England weren't going to complain. Sangakkara again made batting look easy, but with the Barmy Army urging England on with another marathon stint of "Michael Vaughan's Barmy Army" Vandort was finally prised out when he was snaffled in the slips for an absolutely critical breakthrough.

Early wickets tomorrow morning, particularly of the classy Sangakkara and Jayawardene would make it very much game on, but if those two are allowed to bat on, I really don't fancy England;s chances in the 4th innings against Murali.

ps Today's chant of the day, would be the variation to the old classic "give me a D.... give me an I... give me an S... give me an C... give me an oooooooO, let's all have a disco".

Give me a G.....I......K......S.....O - let's all work at Tesco's"

There will be some very sore throats tomorrow, I'm off to try and lubricate mine....
 
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